I have been to every type of metal fest you can imagine, across various countries and terrain, including several previous years on 70,000 Tons Of Metal. However, as I continue to try and shake the hangovers of the past week, I’m constantly reminded of my experiences aboard this year’s biggest metal cruise. Without a doubt, this was my favorite one yet!
Upon my return from the inaugural 70,000 Tons cruise back in 2011, I wrote a list of reasons the 70K experience was my favorite metal festival of them all. Looking back on it today, I’m thoroughly impressed how much of this has kept up over 7 years, and more so, how much this truly unique festival has grown in ways I never saw coming. Here are just some of the reasons, 70,000 Tons remain the best metal cruise of them all.
Upward and Onward
It’s been a few years since I’ve been aboard 70K, mainly due to scheduling. So I was nothing short of excited to see the new vessel the festival has acquired. Being able to accommodate an additional 21 bands and an extra stage, rounding things out to a total of 61 bands, 4 stages, and a sold out crowd from 74 nations is huge!
The numbers alone speak for how large the ship really is, and how much adequate space you have, to remain comfortable at this fest. As always, there is more than enough room for a great viewing angle no matter where you are, even when it seemed like everyone on the entire ship was in one room to watch Testament slay an incredible performance on the theater stage.
As most know, one highlight of any cruise is the amount of food available at any time of the day. Whether it was casual or fine dining, I was really happy to see Independence of The Seas, the cruise ship used for 70K, accommodate any kind of eater. As a vegan myself, I actually found it overwhelming how many options I had, even more than most cities I visit.
Leaving the amenities of the boat intact also means a level of comfort unknown to any other metal festival in the world. I mean where else can you work out at a state of the art gym, grab copious amounts of free food 24/7, hit the sauna, take a dip in the pool, and watch Mors Principium Est perform their first ever state-side set from the comfort of a hot tub, all before noon? The answer is literally no where else in the world. To attend 70,000 Tons is truly a unique experience, and everyone aboard knows it, which lends itself to the vibe.
It's A Small World Afterall
You can’t beat the vibe aboard 70,000 Tons of Metal. As you enter the ship, half drunk from the pre-party the night before, you’re immediately met with like-minded individuals from around the world. All are happy to begin their journey, with child-like excitement on the first day of school, meeting up with all your friends after a long summer break. The truth is, no one ever knows how the voyage will go, but we’re all excited to find out, together.
Aside from catching up with old friends, making new ones is incredibly easy as well. Even if you’re the shyest person on earth, you really have to try hard to not meet anyone. Eating at the classy five-star restaurant on board means you often get paired up with a couple drunk strangers, and if nothing else, is always an entertaining way to blast through a meal.
Of all the previous trips I’ve taken aboard this fest, there were some great and less than great parts I saw along the way, but this was easily the best one for me, and much of that had to do with the over all vibe of everyone being incredibly stoked to be there. As if it were our last days on earth and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. We certainly partied as if it were.
The Bands Rule, Even The Other Bands Know It
With 61 bands on board, some of which you probably never heard or seen before, you are almost guaranteed to see something crazy and new! It’s unbelievable how quick a day goes by when you’re running from one stage to the next to catch all your favorites, especially with each band performing two sets. Even if you’re just trying to bid time by seeing a band you’ve never heard before, you are watching them perform at the top of their game, because the truth is, the bands are stoked to be there too. They are on the same metal vacation after all, and get comfortable real quick mingling with the fans at the bars, restaurants and pools. In fact, at times I saw more bands in the hot tubs than fans!
There is no greater feeling than rocking out to Amorphis and looking over your shoulder to see Bill Steer of Carcass right beside you headbanging too. 70,000 tons of metal really breaks down that barrier between musician and fan, in a not cheesy – buy a VIP package to meet the band – sort of way. It’s all an organic time, and the musicians are also the fans of other musicians, as you can see by simply looking around to spot your favorites watching the same band you are.
This year in particular was a tremendous lineup that ran the gamut of every sub-genre you can imagine, even with a few specialty acts that never perform in America like Mors Principium Est and Kalmah. Whether you’re into thrash, death metal, black metal, pagan, prog, industrial, or nu, you had so many options at hand. I can honestly say I was never bored. Shit, barely anyone even slept on the whole cruise because you didn’t want to miss anything!
The icing on the cake for me was the 70K All Star Jam lead by Jeff Waters of Annihilator. I've seen Metal Allegiance many times before, and prepared for more of the same, but was pleasantly blown away by the best rendition of metal artists jamming on stage I had ever seen. If you think about it, 70K is designed to be the best version of an all star jam, considering how many various sub-genres are present on board. The finale, which featured Scott Ian (Anthrax), Mark Osegueda (Death Angel), Gene Hoglan (Testament), D. D. Verni (Overkill), and Aaron Homma (Annihilator) performining Metallica's "Metal Militia" straight up gave me chills!
It’s Just Better Than The Rest
With 70K being the pioneers of the metal cruise world, and the only I’ve been on, I assume bias in believing it to be the best. So I made it a point to ask folks on board about their experiences with other metal cruises, if they had any, and how it compares. I’m happy to report that of the 25+ folks I spoke to about the subject, everyone of them believes 70K to be the top metal cruise they’ve ever attended, despite the other options available.
The answers as to why 70K is the best metal cruise naturally varies, I heard things like – “There are more bands on 70K”, “There’s more variety and sub-genres aboard”, “The sound and stages are bigger and better”, “There are more babes on 70K”, and “Because other cruises are just a bad copy cat of 70K”, all true statements, but there was one in particular that really had my attention.
“70,000 Tons Of Metal is the only cruise that puts the fan experience before everything else” – At the start of this review, I mentioned how much this cruise has grown, and I don’t just mean in size and numbers. More affectionately, I mean that in fan experience. As if all the ship amenities plus 61 bands wasn’t enough, 70K continues to explore new ways to interact with attendees on each and every run. From belly flop competitions, late night karaoke with bands, free drum and guitar instructional clinics lead by your favorite artists, or even the opportunity to go on shore excursions lead by artists, 70K constantly sets itself apart from all other festivals. There are no VIP sections, or headliners, and the festival organizers are always listening to the attendees for new ways to improve. That's huge! When I saw Andy Piller, the organizer of 70K, and brought up his great work on this very subject, he smiled and said “I have a few more ideas to come”. If you’re wondering why there are veterans on board who attended all 7 times without question, you really have your answer.
I for one, look forward to seeing what they do next!